Plácido Domingo Junior: "The basics must be there, regardless of technique"
On the 5th of November Plácido Domingo Junior, the son of the great opera singer Plácido Domingo, is giving his debut concert in Russia. He will be presenting classical crossover hits by Mozart, Ruiz, Gardel, Piazzola, Dominguez, Jobim et al. under the baton of Igor Manasherov. A week before the performance we had a talk with the soloist on Russia, his childhood, relationship with his father, love for music and the decision to start a singing career.
Is it your first visit to Russia? Have you already been to this country? Do you like it? Why?
No. Yes, I was fortunate enough to visit Moscow once in the summer of 1988 in July. I love Russia for its amazing culture in music, for its amazing composers and musicians with their unrivaled discipline, lyrical voices, history, architecture, vodka and caviar (especially caviar). Also Russian is a very beautiful language. And also it has the most gorgeous women in the world!
What is your opinion of Russian opera singers? Are they different from other singers or not?
Fantastic! Your country has given the world of opera magnificent voices in all vocal ranges: sopranos, tenors, mezzos, baritones and basses. No category has been spared. Of course they are different. They are foremost extremely disciplined, they sing with very good taste, technique and come from a superior school as far as their performance goes. Also the quality of their voices is very particular and beautiful.
Do you remember at what age you started taking interest in music and art? Was it due to your parents, father in particular, who wanted you to go into the world of classical music?
At around 8 or 9 I could sing by memory many arias of opera and specially tenor roles… then at the age of 10 our 11 I began playing the piano by ear! Then my parents decided it was time for me to start taking piano lessons. Nobody ever really pushed me in any one particular direction… if they saw an interest from my part they would just provide the means and the technique basically. The genre of music was never predetermined. But yes, at the beginning we were aiming at a more classical training.
Did you want to be an opera singer?
Not really! I knew I had a very hard act to follow in my father and also I never had the real discipline to study for classical voice training. But I was never intimidated by my father’s own gigantic career since I knew I was going to a completely different direction as far as singing was concerned. And also sometimes people like to make unfair comparisons so I can’t live my life worrying about what other people think about me. My real profession is composing and producing whereas singing is actually a hobby but it seems that quite a few people like it. So I decided to turn it into a new career…
Plácido Domingo Jr & Plácido Domingo in duet sing "Perhaps Love"
We know that there are certain opera recordings, for example, "Tosca" that you took part in as a child and sang small parts. What was it like to work with grown-up singers in a studio? Do you remember this experience?
I recall every experience very vividly. With “Tosca” I had the opportunity to partake in it twice as a little boy and in both occasions with my father. In 1975 I sang the little shepherd from the third act at Barcelona’s el Gran Teatro del Liceo while my father was singing Cavaradossi. Then we did the actual “Tosca” film together and I had to record again the soundtrack for the movie and then I filmed at the bottom of the Castle Sant’Angelo by the Tiber river in Rome, during May 1976 the actual film. Then I also recorded more child parts with him like in “La Boheme” and “Man of La Mancha”. As an adult I have recorded already with him in about 4/5 CDs.
Unlike your father, you are better known as a song writer, a producer and a composer. The first CD with your songs appeared only in 2010. Why did you decide to start your singing career after all these years of working in other fields?
Because one day he needed to learn some songs that I composed and he asked me to record them for him. So I recorded them and when he listened to my recorded voice he said “Why don’t you sing pop or contemporary music?” Now the rest is history… I always liked singing but never studied for it. I just sing by instinct and with my heart. Of course, having listened to my father for so many years gave me an idea of how it should be done but the public ultimately decides.
Do comparisons with your father irritate you? Could you tell us about your relationships with your father?
They are inevitable… and sometimes it’s even funny. They don’t irritate me at all. To me the one person that can tell me if I should sing or not is really my father. He loves me and would not want me to feel bad or insecure on stage, so if he’s ok with it, he knows I can do it well and even supports me… that’s all that really matters to me.
I have a beautiful relationship with my father. He’s a very kind, generous and understanding man. He’s always there for me. And now that we can sing together at times, it’s even more fun and the relationship is stronger.
Who is your favorite composer and why?
Definitely Giacomo Puccini! His melodies are heart wrenching and his orchestrations are super rich and powerful. It’s almost like a film score music, which I love. His music communicates to me like no other. He is the best operatic composer by far.
What do you think of the singing technique nowadays? Is it far more advanced as it was, for instance, 100 years ago?
Well, I wasn’t around 100 years ago but I know many tenors, for example, used falsetto in many high notes and nowadays the tenor voice has evolved tremendously. The right technique is always the one that will allow you to have a long career and will not damage your vocal chords. Everybody is different. But the basics must be there, regardless of technique.